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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 July, 2004, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Animal welfare overhaul planned
A dog
Fines for people who abuse animals could quadruple
People who abuse animals could be fined 20,000 and jailed for a year under proposed law changes, a newspaper says.

The government's draft Animal Welfare Bill, to be published on Wednesday, is set to be the largest overhaul of animal welfare legislation since 1911.

The Times says RSPCA inspectors could be allowed to enter premises by force where animals are at risk of harm.

Mistreatment of animals currently carries a maximum 5,000 fine and six-month prison sentence.

The Bill would give anyone owning a pet, farm or exotic animal a "duty of care" to look after it, the Times reports.


Owners who failed to do so could see their animal taken away and be banned from keeping one in future.

Protection would extend to creatures such as insects, slugs, worms and butterflies if it can be proved they suffered pain and distress.

Carla Lane - who runs the Animaline welfare centre in West Sussex and is famous for creating BBC sitcoms the Liver Birds, Butterflies and Bread - told BBC News 24 she would welcome new legislation but more could be done.

"A man who is sorely cruel to a dog should not be told he can have another one in three years' time.

"I'm talking about extreme cruelty. I remember one man who kept a dog in a rabbit hutch for two years. The government should listen to people like us - sanctuary owners, animal people," Ms Lane said.

The Bill would also enable RSPCA inspectors to enter trucks, ferries or other vehicles carrying animals without a warrant.

Controversial issues including circus animals and the docking of dog tails will apparently not be dealt with in the Bill.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesman confirmed the Bill would be published next week but refused to discuss the contents.

The BBC's Richard Lister
"Our animal welfare laws date back to 1911"

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